The newly renovated Children’s Park in Rockville Centre offers state-of-the-art options — including an app that enhances the play experience and a user-activated spray park that shuts off when nobody’s using it.
The playground on the grounds of the John A. Anderson Recreation Center is free and open to anyone, not just village residents, says Ginger Creegan, superintendent of recreation for the village of Rockville Centre.
“Today’s my first day here, and I’m definitely impressed,” says Megan Lindner, 36, of Rockville Centre one recent weekday morning when she brought her three children, Hunter, 5, and twins Parker and Tucker, who will soon be 3. “It’s so awesome.”
Here are five ways to play:
1 GET WET
Water spouts from six flowers painted on the ground of the fenced-in spray park area, and water also falls from a shower. A button starts the flow. “After 55 seconds it will go off, and someone else will have to push it,” Creegan says. “The kids love pushing the button to start the water gushing again.”
On a recent steamy morning, the spray park was the playground hot spot, with more than a dozen preschool-age kids in bathing suits playing while parents or grandparents watched from the shade of nearby trees. “The thing I like about this place is the water area,” says Hunter Lindner, 5. “My favorite is that,” he continues, pointing to a water spout and running back to play in it.
2 PLAY SMART
A play structure depicts a pirate ship on one side and a pond scene on the other. A QR code posted on the structure lets parents download an app that reads kids Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales. They can hear the story of “The Little Mermaid” and then act it out on the pirate ship, or the story of “The Ugly Duckling” and then act it out on the pond side. “The app tells the story, plays some music, gives you different activities,” says recreation superintendent Creegan. A bench inside the structure lets parents and kids sit for the storytelling.
3 CLIMB THE PORPOISE
A porpoise that used to be the playground’s only water-play structure has been “re-porpoised,” Creegan jokes. It’s colorfully repainted and is now a dry climbing structure kids can sit on. It rests in the midst of a sandbox.
While the play areas are separated, they are still close enough together for kids to go from one to the other without Mom or Dad having to chase them. “Right now I have all three here, but I can see them all,” Lindner says, while Hunter is in the spray park and Parker is digging in the sandbox.
4 SWING ON
Different areas offer swings for different ages, from baby on up. There’s also a handicap-accessible swing for kids 2 and older so kids of all abilities can enjoy a ride.
5 MAKE MUSIC
Kids can “play” two vertical xylophones by lifting a rubber flap up and letting it fall onto the pipes. Other activities in the area include a tic-tac-toe board.
Because there are a variety of play areas, “you can make it a full day,” says Bianca Macaluso, 39, of Rockville Centre, who came to the playground at 111 N. Oceanside Rd. with her daughter, Siena, 3.
Some parents even have food delivered to the park from the local pizza parlor or bagel store; shaded picnic tables will soon offer families comfortable places to eat.
WHAT Children’s Park at the Rockville Centre recreation center
WHEN | WHERE Open from 8:00 a.m. to dusk seven days at 111 N. Oceanside Rd., Rockville Centre
Heckscher Park, Huntington
The fenced playground here has typical playground equipment — but what makes this free Town of Huntington park a draw is what it offers in addition. Take a stroll around the duck pond; usually you’ll find an ice cream truck parked on the perimeter ready to provide summer treats. If you go on a Tuesday evening in summer, you can also take in a free outdoor children’s performance on the nearby Chapin Rainbow Stage. Weekly family shows start June 27.
Pine Acres Park, Deer Park
This fenced-in, free Town of Babylon playground offers shaded equipment and includes the Sway Fun, a teeter-totter that looks like a diner booth with room for grown ups and kids to share on each bench. The playground is adjacent to the Tommy Maiorini Park, home of Deer Park Little League, so you can also take in a ball game and, if the concession stand is open, grab a ballpark snack. “Lots of people come here in the evening; [at] 6 or 7 it’s full,” says Tania Sultan, at the playground one afternoon with her niece and nephews.